Aloha Friday Message – December 1, 2017 – DO get caught!

1748AFC120117 – DO get caught!

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Isaiah 64:5a You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways.  (In the New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE), this sentence is in Isaiah 64:4a and reads: Would that you might meet us doing right, that we might be mindful of you in our ways!)

Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

One of the most important things I learned as a manager was the necessity of catching people doing the right thing. After all, isn’t that what we expect of employees, that they will be motivated to do the right thing? Truly we all like to be told that we are doing the right thing more than we like being told we are doing the wrong thing. There are times when correction is important, and there are times when we appreciate correction as long as it is fair and nonjudgmental – what we call feedback. Sometimes feedback can help us be aware of our lack of attentiveness and encourage us to be more engaged in what we do. Sometimes, no matter how often we receive correction, praise, or other feedback, we just keep doing the wrong thing, and we get caught doing that more often than we get caught doing the right thing. When faced with a situation like that, it would be wise to make a deep examination of the fundamental assumptions we have about our position in life.

Back in September 2014, I wrote a piece called My 4,357th Second Chance. I asked what would happen if we really could change. One of the most important – and most difficult – changes to make is repentance. To be repentant, we must ask for forgiveness – and that is what usually trips us up because … we have to admit we were WRONG! Why is that so hard to do? Well, that one is a three-part deal.

First we have to get past our pride that makes us feel we are superior to everyone else because – although we may not always be right – we are never wrong. That’s also what did in Adam: “It wasn’t my fault! She made me eat it!” You’ve been through that enough times that I don’t need to spell it out.

Next, even if we can wrestle down our pride and admit we were wrong, we have to be willing to say – and mean – that we are sorry. “I’m sorry” gets stuck in our craw for the same reason as admitting we’re wrong: Pride. It takes humility to apologize and most of us are wired to avoid humility.

Lastly, we have to make up our minds not to do “that” again. We have to repent. We have to reform. We have to go back to being without that intention to gratify our egos and, in so doing, hurt someone else – or even ourselves.

That’s how we should deal with correction, but what about dealing with getting caught doing the right things? I can recall hearing sermons and parental admonitions that went something like “If Jesus walked in right now, would you be ashamed for him to see you doing that?” Wow! Talk about a downer! Honestly, if Jesus walked in right now, I’d be so happy that I would stop doing anything – good or bad – just to embrace him for real. Of course, the idea is that, since he can come at any moment like a thief in the night, I should endeavor to do only that which is right and good – to be perfect, to be wholly holy – as he commanded me to do. That would be a rare feat indeed! Who among us can claim perfection? To do so would be the sin of pride, and pride is what gets us in most of our messes anyway. So, how do we manage being caught doing the right thing?

While we know we cannot be perfect, we can still try to be better. Better is always better, always a positive move toward doing right things better and better things right. This is what is called intentionality. We rarely succeed at being or doing better without intending – without consciously trying – to improve, or at least to remain consistently good. God, in his infinite grace and generosity, accepts our intentionality as readily as he accepts our good works. In short, it’s not impossible for God to catch us doing the right thing as long as we are intentionally and consciously trying to be obedient to him.

In the first of our two key verses today, we see the word meet. The connotation of this word is to meet, to encounter, to reach, to touch, to welcome, to help. God intentionally and consciously seeks to catch us doing the right thing. He always is present and open to our actions; if we do well, he blesses us with a clear conscience; if we fail, he blesses us with loving correction. He is generous with both sorts of blessing because he always wants to help us remember his ways, his conventions, his Everlasting Love. When he looks at our lives, he sees what we do, and if we are doing what he asks – if our actions are consistent with trying to be like him – he is pleased, he is blessed, and he blesses us before, during, and after we act. He is always shaping us in ways that help us conform to his image – the image in which he created us – his own. He fashions us with the capacity to do the right thing. If we remain flexible in his hands, we are well-formed indeed! That brings us to one of the most famous verses in the Bible – the potter and the clay.

Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. We might look around and wonder how that can be when we see the tsunami of evil rolling across the world. Terror, wickedness, greed, suffering, disease, famine, and defiance of God’s laws are occurring at every moment of every day. How can these things be done by all who are the work of his hands? Those who behave so contrary to what God requires – and provides for – are proud in their rebellion. They refused to be shaped by him who made the universe. There is another passage in Isaiah that addresses this: Isaiah 45:9 Woe to you who strive with your Maker, earthen vessels with the potter! Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, “What are you making”? or “Your work has no handles”? In another version it reads like this: One who argues with his Creator is in grave danger, one who is like a mere shard among the other shards on the ground! The clay should not say to the potter, “What in the world are you doing? Your work lacks skill!” New English Translation (NET) Yes! We sometimes speak to God like that! And he has an answer for it through the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me:” Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done?” says the Lord. “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” God is not fooled, and he is always in control. He will always try to reshape us properly. If we cannot be reshaped, it is possible we can end up on the floor like other pieces of broken pottery, like a mere shard among the other shards on the ground!

Beloved, we are all clay in the potter’s hands (remember, “from the dust of the ground” – Genesis 2:7), but remarkably some of us still try to call the shots and shape our own lives in our own image. As it was with Israel, so it is with us. We earthlings find it so difficult to relinquish our will to anyone – or so we think. We let friends, or family, or peers influence us into doing things that do not honor God. “What do you mean you’re going to church instead of watching the Ostriches versus the Echidnas? What kind of a fan would miss that?” “C’mon. One little toke won’t hurt you!” “If you really loved me, we’d stop wasting time talking about it and just do it.” “Hey, just one more for the road. Drink up! Ya only live once!” (And don’t forget YOLO forever.)

Those comments, that outlook, these distractions will guarantee a shattered future somewhere along the line – perhaps even as far down the line as Death’s Door. We willingly give our bodies, minds, and spirits, even our allegiance, to things that are impermanent; but we will not give an entire day once a week to the God who created us, who sustains us, and who fills us with only the finest things, “gift of finest wheat” (Psalm 81:16, John 6:35, 2 Corinthians 4:7), and “treasure worth more than gold.” Beloved, that is the way to destruction!

We know we are going to “get caught.” God is all about looking for ways to catch us trying to be like him. When we do that, he likes it, and he rewards it. When we don’t (or won’t) do that, he doesn’t like it and – like the potter in Jeremiah – will try reshaping the clay for another purpose. I see that as a win-win situation, and I am grateful God’s work is done in me when I yield to his hands. I’d love to be caught doing that!  Maran atha! Marana tha! We need to tell our God Have Thine Own Way, Lord! (↔ Music Link)

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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